Monday, July 13, 2009

On our way.....!!



U
laan Baatar is not one of my favorite cities and I could not wait to get out of it into the Mongolian countryside.

Today's the day we begin our roadtrip!!


Violeta and I woke up in time for breakfast.

After stuffing our faces, we grabbed our bags and met up with the rest of the group in the lobby. There, Adam introduced us to Purevsuren Burneebaatar who immediately said, "You can call me Puji". Good thing, I thought to myself, cause I can't pronounce your proper name :-) Puji would be our local guide for our entire trip through Mongolia. I think we have a good combination of guides. Adam's a very experienced guide and he's very enthusiastic and open to whatever Mongolia gives us. Puji seems very friendly and I presume knows her homeland well. I think I will enjoy being with the two of them.

We waited on the front steps of the hotel for the drivers to arrive. It was few minutes to start to get to know each other and to bask in the warm sun.




Because there are so many of us, we would traveling in four Toyota Land Cruisers. Violeta and I chose to ride with Sharon and Adrian. It took a while to get everyone packed into the cars but as soon as we got everyone into their seats, the drivers took off. We would be riding in a caravan and each driver had their position in the line.






We inched our way out of the city. I'm guessing that the traffic congestion is because of the morning rush hour....which you can't seem to escape these days in any major city around the world :-(

Along the way, the drivers had to gas up so we pulled over at a roadside convenience store. Puji advised us to stock up on snacks and water. It was going to be a long day's ride before we would make it to our final destination - Amarbayasgalant Monastsery.

With our size group, it took a while for everyone to find the items they wanted and to stand in line to pay for it. But no rush, I'm not in any hurry. Soon enough, we were all back in the SUVs with bags of food and drink.


It didn't take long for us to get to the outskirts of the city. I was finally greeted by the sight of the famed Mongolian steppes. Wide open fields that sit below an expansive sky filled with fluffy white clouds. This would become a daily sight for me.























Another daily event would be the bumpy ride. I quickly figured that the only paved roads are in Ulaan Baatar. Everywhere else, it's just tracks atop hardened earth. Makes sense that we're riding around in SUVs.....it's going to be 10 days of offroading!!









Sharon, Adrian, Violeta and I chatted to bide time. At one point, the driver pulled over....that would become a daily event too. We had arrived at an ovoo. We would see these throughout our journey. Ovoos are sacred mounds of stone and other stuff. They are often adorned with blue khadags (prayer scarves). Ovoos are shamanistic symbols. It is customary to walk around an ovoo clockwise for good luck.
































Of course, we had to do our walk around the ovoo. It was then back in the SUV and back on the road.
































A short distance later, we came across another sight that is truly Mongolian....a small herd of bactrian camels. These were obviously domesticated camels who didn't mind a herd of strangers walking up to them and taking their pictures.





















































 By now, lunchtime was approaching. The drivers knew exactly where to pull off. We soon found ourselves setting up our picnic style lunch in a grassy area next to stream.


























































While we ate, Puji played "hostess" making sure we got our food (a sandwich) and drink (bottled water). It was a simple lunch but it was more than sufficient for me. I was just happy to bask in the sunshine with a picture perfect 360 view of the Mongolian steppe.


















At the same time, Adam was entertaining a four legged creature who seemed very familiar with this spot. He patiently waited for everyone to toss him a bit of something to eat.











After we finished eating, we collected up all the trash and piled back into the SUV's. With the exception of an occasional stop for a nature break, we drove directly to our destination for the day, Amarbayasgalant Monastery. I settled back to enjoy the bumpy ride and the beautiful landscape passing before my eyes. I am already beginning to enjoy this journey!